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Thai Cucumber Salad and Generous Friends

August 28, 2011
thai cucumber salad

thai cucumber salad
It’s probably been five weeks since I posted here. I’ve been cooking plenty, but it’s been of the utilitarian type–meals my friends would (and sometimes are) still delighted to join in on, but that I’ve either posted before, or that I didn’t plate well, or that we were in a hurry to eat. That’s the true life behind a food blog–very little of what is produced makes it on here.

I’ve made Tutto Mare (for my man’s parents while they visited for three weeks in my house–another reason I’ve been absent), eggplant parmasean (without frying the eggplant but with a stick of butter in the sauce), flank steak with chimichurri sauce (for which I already owe you a recipe–noted!), cookies, Chinese desserts involving potatoes and ginger, pesto, and a million other things. Between the house guests and my day job and my latest quest to drink only disgusting green purees of things, there’s not much time to write or much worth writing about.

Now about generous friends. Usually when I post to Red Blossom Tea I’m talking about P. This time I’m talking about his sister Alice–I owe her big time. Every time I drop into the shop she seems to have some treat to share with me, we talk cheese, we talk travel, we talk food and wine. I took the visiting pseudo-in-laws to the shop and came home with a gigantic bag of washed, ready to use, beautiful mature arugula which I’ve put to several uses over the last two weeks–yes, it’s lasted two weeks and still looks gorgeous!

I’ve made arugula pesto, added it to one of my disgusting green smoothies, mixed it into bruschetta, blanched it and served it with eggs poached in tomato sauce, and even used it in this thai cucumber salad recipe. Thanks Alice!

mature arugula grown in bay area garden

raw green smoothie

This is why I haven’t been posting. While writing this enry, I drank this green smoothie of apples, carrots, spinach and a dash of whole lemon and tried really hard to pretend it was baked french toast with mascarpone cream.

Thai Cucumber Salad
Serves 4-6 with possible leftovers as a side

2 medium cucumbers, preferably unwaxed persians
1/4 red onion
1 large watermelon radish or other radish totaling the size of a small peach
1/2 C arugula, chopped
2 tsp sesame seeds, toasted
1/4 C seasoned rice vinegar
1 T sugar
1 tsp salt

Mix the vinegar, sugar, and salt and microwave for 30 seconds, stir to combine. Set aside.

Prepare your cucumber- if waxed/thick skinned, trim the ends, and peel most of the skin off leaving bright green behind, cut in half and remove the seeds with a spoon from each side. If using edible peel, simply remove ends and cut in half, removing seeds.  Using a mandolin or a very patient hand, slice into 1/8th inch thick slices. Place in a serving bowl. Next, slice 1/8th or thinner slices of red onion using the mandolin. Peel off any tough outer layers before doing so. Add to cucumber bowl. Peel the watermelon radish (no need to peel other types), cut in half, and slice thinly with the mandolin.

Toss everything with the vinegar mixture, add sesame seeds and arugula at the end. Serve immediately or refrigerate up to two weeks, so long as everything is coated in vinegar. Makes a quick refrigerator pickle that is tasty right away or later on. You can also store in jars with more vinegar up to a couple months if refrigerated.

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Age Dashi Tofu with Tempura Dipping Sauce

February 26, 2011

recipe photo: home made age dashi tofu

I’ve mentioned this before–when you start cooking Japanese food at home, it makes sense to just keep doing it. The ingredients effectively make you stock an entirely new kitchen, and while each step of most dishes is very simple, they almost always require making ingredients to be used–layer upon layer. So you may as well make extra stock, extra sauce, and repurpose it later in the week.

On that note, I have found several new Japanese cookbooks that I adore. I’ve mentioned the fabulous Washoku before, but the new ones I am in love with are more like encyclopedias of Japanese cooking, with huge selections of traditional hot dishes, allowing you to perhaps recreate something you’ve eaten in a quality Japanese restaurant. Japanese Cooking: a Simple Art &  perhaps now my all-time favorite, The Japanese Kitchen–it lacks photos, but provides great instruction and is excellent for those of us who know roughly what we want to make.

Age Dashi Tofu (Fried tofu with broth sauce)
1 10-oz block tofu; you can use firm sprouted tofu for full flavor or silken tofu for a nice play on soft-vs-crunchy
1/2 C potato starch (can sub corn starch if you must)
A lot of frying oil such as sunflower or safflower oil
2 green onions, sliced thinly on the diagonal

Drain the tofu well and pat dry, using some firm pressure but not breaking the tofu. If using firm or extra firm tofu, wrap in paper towels and place heavy dinner plate on top, letting sit 30 minutes. Next, slice along each axis of the block and then several times more to end up with 8 even rectangles. Dredge the rectangles in potato starch , tap excess off and let sit 5 minutes while your oil heats. Fry the blocks until slightly golden, about 5 minutes and then drain on a rack or paper towels. Serve half covered in sauce with green onion on top, and the tempura sauce’s ginger or daikon.

Tempura Dipping Sauce
1 C dashi (kelp/tuna flake stock)
5 T soy sauce
3 T mirin
1 T sugar
1/2 C katsuo bushi (tuna flakes)
2 tsp grated ginger or daikon, served with the sauce

Combine all ingredients except ginger/daikon, and bring to a boil. Add the katsuo bushi and turn off the heat. Let stand 2 minutes, strain and reserve. Lasts up to 1 week in refrigerator. Serve Warm.

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Creamy winter citrus & crab salad

January 5, 2011

Winter salad with citrus and creamy yogurt dressing

Creamy winter citrus salad with Crab

For four:
1 dungeness crab, picked for meat (or about 8 legs/1.25 lbs in-shell)
2 small, tasty oranges
2 grapefruit
1 ripe avocado
1/2 C pepitas (pumpkin seeds, raw preferably)
3T plain greek yogurt
1 shallot
Juice of 1 lemon
1 T good, mild olive oil
bunch watercress
bunch frisee

Pick the crab meat and mince the shallot. Toast the pepitas in a hot pan, moving constantly for a few minutes. Zest the oranges and grapefruit a bit to get about 1-2 tsp of zest into a small bowl. Section the fruits by slicing the stem/flower ends off and cutting the pith away. Hold the fruit in your hand and cut* along the membranes to section the fruit out.

Drain the excess juice into the zest bowl, and add the yogurt, shallot, lemon juice, olive oil and a bit of salt. Whisk together and let stand. Slice your avocado thinly and portion 1/4 for each serving. Dress the frisee and watercress in the creamy citrus dressing, and assemble the citrus segments, crab, avocado and pepitas on top.

*If you’re afraid of doing this, watch a youtube video; if you’re still afraid, cut them in rounds instead.

appetizers condiments & pickles Fall fried lunch main courses Recipes salad dressings salads seafood

Salmon Cream Cheese Wontons & Spicy Persimmon Slaw

November 14, 2010
home made salmon cream cheese wontons

home made salmon cream cheese wontons

spicy persimmon cabbage salad

Inspired by Wild Ginger in Cambria, CA, these wontons are tasty, filling finger food; the slaw helps to cut the fat and is a nice fall accompaniment. They’re also a really convenient way to use up any leftover wonton skins and leftover salmon.

For 12-16 wontons

Square wonton skins
1/3 lb salmon, cooked (grilled, broiled, whatever)
1/4 C cream cheese (I prefer Gina Marie from Sierra Nevada Cheese Co)
1-2 tsp brown rice vinegar
1/8 tsp five spice powder
lots of safflower/sunflower/other high eat oil for frying

Shred the salmon and mix with room temperature cream cheese. Add rice vinegar, five spice powder, and a pinch of salt to taste. Set aside for up to 2 hours or refrigerate up to 2 days ahead. Use 1T per wonton wrapper and moisten wrapper with spray bottle. Fold diagonally and seal, then bring end points together and seal. Fry at medium high heat, testing a piece of wonton skin first, until evenly golden.

Spicy Persimmon Cabbage Slaw

1/2 head cabbage, chopped somewhat finely
1 persimmon, sliced thinly
2 tsp gochujang or other chili paste such as harissa
juice of 1 lime
1/4 tsp ground cumin

Whisk gochujang, lime juice, cumin and salt; toss cabbage and persimmon in mixture and let set 10 minutes before serving, or up to 1 hour.

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Oven baked babyback ribs to fall off the bone all year long + mango slaw

September 12, 2010
Oven baked babyback ribs

Oven baked babyback ribs

Rack of ribs cooked in oven babyback

I know it’s barbecue season and all, but the nice little disc that distributes the heat on my gas grill pretty much withered away to dust all of the sudden, and I’m grill-less unless I want to bother with the whole charcoal thing, which most of the time just takes way too much planning.

And so, after my latest grocery impulse buy–a rack of ribs–I had to come up with somethin’ new.

Oven Baked Ribs

1 rack (or more! hey! who’s to stop you) babyback pork ribs

For the spice rub:
1/4 C brown sugar
1 T paprika
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp berbere mix if you can get your hands on some

Mix it up and rub it on the ribs generously. Let sit overnight in the fridge with it on or at room temp at least 30 minutes.

Make a loose foil packet for the ribs and bake at 300 degrees for 2 1/2 hours.

When rib meat is pulled away from bone, dress top in bbq sauce (store bought in my case) and stick under the broiler meaty side up for a few minutes until bubbly and caramelized.

Mango Slaw

Mango Slaw

1/2 cucumber,seeded and sliced thinly
1/4 mango, julienned
1/4 jicama tuber, julienned
1/8th head red cabbage, sliced thinly
1/4 carrot, sliced thinly in wafers
2 radishes, quartered and sliced thinly
juice of 1/2 lime
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp walnut oil
1 tsp sushi vinegar or other vinegar
pinch salt

Whisk together last 5 ingredients and add all other ingredients. This’ll be fine the next day too but I prefer it immediately.

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Watermelon Rind Pickle Recipe & Their Applications

August 15, 2010
Homemade pickled watermelon rinds

Homemade pickled watermelon rinds

My mother loves using these as appetizers by wrapping bacon around them, tooth-picking them and cooking in the oven until crispy, salty, sweet.

They’re relatively annoying to find in local markets and for a variety of reasons I expect them to be better made at home–organic watermelon, spices hand carried back from India, quality control. In a market, a jar half this size will cost about $4-5.

Watermelon rind in brine


Pickled Watermelon Rinds with Water Bath

These will keep at least a year assuming a seal is made upon canning.

Rind from an 8lb watermelon, peeled, flesh removed and cubed
Lots of kosher salt
Lots of water
2 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar, rice vinegar, or apple cider vinegar
4 cups sugar
1 T whole cloves
6 cinnamon sticks, 3 inches or so long
1-2 T star anise, whole
Optional: whole mace, tied in a cheesecloth bag (do not can it)

Peel and chop your watermelon rind and place the pieces in a briny water overnight, up to 24 hours, at room temperature.  You should use 3T kosher salt to every quart of water. Let it sit a few minutes then give it a stir to dissolve.

Drain the rind and put it in a large pan, such as a pasta pot. Fill with water, just covering the pieces. Simmer until becoming slightly translucent, about 40 minutes.

Drain again and set aside. Use the same pot to combine the vinegar and sugar. Bring to a boil, add the spices and the watermelon rind, reduce to a simmer and continue cooking about 20-30 more minutes, until all pieces are translucent.

Immediately transfer the rind pieces into clean mason jars or canning jars and have new lids ready and clean. Once the rind is distributed, pour the spices and spice syrup (less the mace packet in cheesecloth) in over the rind until about 1/4 inch from the top, covering the pieces.

Screw the lids on with moderate force and place into a large pot (maybe the same one, cleaned?) filled with warm/hot from the tap water, and bring it to a gentle boil. Once boiling, continue for 10 minutes, then turn off heat and leave until cool enough to handle.

If you force the jars to cool more quickly, they will likely crack or break. Within about an hour, all of the seals will probably sink to show that they are pasteurized and ready for storage. If they have not sunk by 24 hours later, you’ll need to repeat the water bath process.

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Peruvian Potato Pancakes with Homemade Apple Sauce & Creme Fraiche

March 1, 2009

Peruvian Potato Pancakes with Homemade Apple Sauce and Creme Fraiche Recipe Photo

4 Peruvian Potatoes
3 large fingerling potatoes
1 medium yellow onion
2 eggs beaten
2 T salt
1 T fresh ground pepper
6-8 heaping T flour
1 tsp baking powder
vegetable oil
creme fraiche
applesauce (store bought or recipe follows)

After washing, shred your potatoes and add to a bowl. Mince your onion, and add it to the bowl. Cover mixture with water and soak 10 minutes, then drain thoroughly.

Mix potatoes & onion with the eggs, adding salt, pepper, baking powder and 4 T of the flour. Mix and add flour as needed until you can see the mixture will stick together.

Heat oven to warm. In a nonstick pan, heat vegetable oil to medium high heat. Add heaping tablespoon full of batter and push flat, repeating without crowding the pan (in my 12 inch pan I put no more than 4 small pancakes at a time). Flip when it’s holding together well, cooking golden on both sides. Add more oil as is needed keeping just enough to give color/allow sizzling.

When cooked add to parchment lined baking sheet and keep warm in oven until serving. Serve with bowls of finely cut chives, sour cream or creme fraiche, and applesauce.

Spiced Home-made Apple Sauce

This recipe is forgiving and you may make a batch of any size with thoughtful adjustment. I used 8 or 10 apples of mixed varieties from my farm shipment.

minimum of 5 apples (don’t use all red, they don’t have enough pectin)
1-2 sticks cinnamon
4-10 cloves
2 T sugar – 1/3 C sugar
1 tsp – 3 tsp salt
Fresh grated nutmeg to taste

Peel and core your apples and add the cores & peels to a pan that will accomodate the apples eventually. Add water until almost covered. Add the cinnamon and cloves, and bring to a simmer, cooking until reduced and all soft (15-30 minutes). Strain. Keep the juice, discard the rest in your compost preferably.

Meanwhile, cube your apples. Add to the juice once you’ve made it, keeping the spices in. Cook at medium low heat or a slight simmer until softened, probably 1 hour. Stir in sugar, salt, nutmeg to taste. Put into clean or sterilized jars or containers. If canning, will keep for some months. If putting in a container to be used from refrigerator, will last up to 1 month. Throw out at first signs of changing taste, color, or visible molding.

Wine: We had the Peruvian potato pancakes with a delicious and inexpensive bottle of dry prosecco. Any apply, dry sparkling wine will be great and cleans the fat of the oil & creme fraiche out of the mouth.